Sahel leaders urge support for Mali

Leaders in Africa's Sahel region called on Saturday for further efforts to support Mali as they announced new funds to back a West African force in the country.

Gathered in Chad, leaders from the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) called in a statement for "support for the ongoing political, diplomatic and military process in order to achieve final stability in Mali."

They also announced 500 million CFA Francs (760,000 euros/$1 million) in support for the West African AFISMA mission deploying to help Malian forces re-establish control of the country after swathes of the north were seized last year by Islamist rebels.

Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno, whose country has agreed to send 1,800 troops to Mali, called for the creation of an African reaction force to deal with future regional conflicts.

"The Malian case should concern us all and encourage us to speed up measures needed for the future, in other words the activation of the African standby force," he said.

A French-led military intervention launched on January 11 has driven the Islamist rebels in Mali from the towns they controlled, but concerns remain over stability amid suicide attacks and guerrilla fighting.